Tag Archives: zero waste

The Only Way

THIS MONTH I AM CELEBRATING an important anniversary. I know this because LinkedIn told me so.

You see, in 2017 I founded my zero waste event services company, Happy Planet Running. And this month marks the start of my fourth year. Holy smokes. It really does feel like just yesterday I was filling out the incorporation paperwork and filing it with the State of Michigan. And I had an attorney as my registered agent, and business insurance, and business cards. It was real.

And I’d started it at age 55.

2019 – I’m holding the landfill trash from an entire weekend of trail races.

I am not the first person in my family to start a business in his fifties. My father was let go from an executive position when Burroughs and Sperry merged into Unisys (and inconsequentiality), with all three of his kids in college. The script called for finding another large company to work at until 65 and the gold watch. Instead he founded his own PR firm and ran it until just before he died at 76. It paid the bills and kept him comfortably busy and connected to the world.

I asked him once, “Dad, why have your own business at your age?” At the time, I was full-time corporate and enjoyed it, like he’d done most of his professional life. His answer, “Because it’s the only way to do it,” surprised and amused me. My friends who owned small businesses spent a lot of unpaid time and effort behind the scenes doing the paperwork and other mundane stuff. I just couldn’t see myself doing that.

And yet here I am, and I supported 41 events last year, and will likely do the same number or more this year, God willing and we survive the latest virus scare.

I call the evolution of all this both inevitable and unexpected. Inevitable because like my dad, I can’t handle sitting around doing nothing, even when I intentionally carve out time to do just that. Like when I voluntarily cut back to part-time employment in 2015 to “pursue other interests” – which was true.

I’d wanted to do more running, more long bike rides, more volunteering at events, and get back to creative writing. And I did- up to a point.

And ziplining. Don’t forget ziplining! (Although this was part of a business trip.)

The unexpected part was what I actually ended up doing with most of that freed-up time.

The key was seeing dumpsters fill up with event waste that could have been recycled or composted, and getting fed up enough to do something about it. Which led to research into Zero Waste practices, which led to volunteering at a Zero Waste event, which led to pitching it to an events company in Ann Arbor, and, eventually, creating a business that continues today.

So far, no one has asked me why I would start a company “at my age.” Perhaps that’s due to 21st century business realities, where startups sprout up like weeds and no one expects to work at one company for forty years. But if someone does, I have an answer ready.

“Because it’s the only way to do it.”

Thanks, Dad.

Pre-Ann Arbor Marathon Cleanup Plog!

The Ann Arbor Marathon is Sunday, March 24, and I’ll again be serving as Zero Waste Team captain. Since 2017, when we began the zero waste program at the marathon, we’ve recycled or composted over 97 percent of all race waste!

2018: Less than four pounds of trash, and over 99 percent landfill diversion!

This year we’ll make it an even more environmentally responsible event by doing some cleanup before the race. And if you’re a runner in the area, you could help!

This is an event Ann Arborites, especially runners, should be proud of. It’s an official qualifying race for the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon, and the course runs through some captivating scenery including central campus, Nichols Arboretum, and a long stretch along the Huron River in Gallup Park.

The inaugural Ann Arbor Marathon, June 2012.

Unfortunately, the melting of the winter snow has revealed litter strewn along the roads – an embarrassing amount in some places. This afternoon I ran a loop of the course and observed discarded bottles, cans, paper cups, and even twelve hubcaps. Hardly stuff we want our runners to see, especially those visiting our fair city to be part of a healthy outdoor event!

So this Saturday we’re holding the first ever Ann Arbor Plog-athon!

Glad you asked! “Plog” is the nickname given to an increasingly popular activity of picking up roadside trash during a run. And on Saturday, March 23, some dedicated runners will be out on the marathon course, taking that litter off the streets and putting it where it belongs. And with Zero Waste principles in mind, we’ll recycle or compost as much of it as possible.

Readers, are any of you coming to Ann Arbor to run that weekend? Or do you live in Ann Arbor and want to help make the course condition something we can be proud of? Join us! Details are on the Happy Planet Running page on Facebook. Or email me, and I’ll forward you everything you need to know.

Done Lots of Sweating – Time to Burn!

BEEN A LITTLE WARM THIS SUMMER, hasn’t it. But it hasn’t stopped me from training. Even the VM150, with its two days of 90+ degree heat and blazing sun, was useful to me.

What for? Well, in three weeks I head to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, for a small social gathering they call Burning Man.

Photo: Aaron Logan on Flickr, Creative Commons license.

The five-cent summary is that BM is a week-long event in the middle of the desert. A city is constructed on bare playa, 70,000 people move in, wear outlandish clothing, do outlandish stuff, burn this giant figure, and then they all go home. If you’d like to learn more (and I encourage you so to do), just Google “Burning Man” and you’ll get all the information and photos you can manage. You could start here, for example.

Photo: Steve Jurvetson on Flickr, Creative Commons license.

The following Q&A comes in part from those who already know, and in part from what I can hear in your heads as you are reading this.

Q. So, Jeff, ummm….. why?

Believe it or not, BM had never really been on my list of things to experience [1] until recently. But I’d been aware that they return the desert completely to its natural state afterward. They take Leave No Trace and zero waste principles VERY seriously. This I have to see.

Oh, and there’s a 50K there, too. Which is the main reason I’m going. [2]

Q. So, Jeff, how on earth does one prepare for a week-long stay in the middle of nowhere, be entirely self-sufficient, and stay cool, hydrated, and reasonably sane?

I’m still trying to figure that out. Fortunately, they provide a “Survival Guide” with all the essential information one needs. I’ll provide details as I finish up planning and stocking up, I promise.

Q. So, Jeff, let’s assume you really do intend to run 31 miles in the desert. How are you training for it?

Well, I’ve been running…

Cycling…

A little 70-mile jaunt up the Leelenau Trail to Suttons Bay last month.

And hitting it hard at Body Specs

It helped that I took my time recovering this year after my big race, instead of trying to rush back into full activity (like the previous two years). I’d credit greater maturity and wisdom, but really it was a sore knee that took several weeks to heal completely.

And although the heat’s been annoying, it’s helped me stay acclimated to what’s coming up. Nature has my permission to cool things off starting in September.

(To be continued – I’ll share as much as I can of my careful, meticulous planning and frantic, last-minute panicky decisions. I’ll let you guess what there will be more of.)

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[1] You’ll never catch me using the ghoulish phrase, “bucket list.” When I’m dead I won’t care what I did or didn’t see/do. I focus on experiencing life, not death. Plus I don’t like the imagery.

[2] That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Time to Be Happy!

What is going on outside? The sun is shining, it’s warming up, and flowers are blooming. Could it be that – dare I utter the word – SPRING is here?

Who’s happy about that? Hands up!

 

And who else?

Our new kittens are happy with their first-ever spring!

And this Gazelle Girl finisher is happy!

I’m looking forward to some additional cavorting on the Potawotami Trail at Trail Marathon this weekend, and overseeing the event’s Zero Waste effort.

And speaking of Zero Waste, I have another reason to be happy right now.

I don’t often mention my business, Happy Planet Running, on this personal blog, but I want to share this news. Next month I will be providing Zero Waste services to two local events dedicated to kids: the Girls on the Run regional 5K series, and the first-ever Upland Hills School 5K/10K.

From the GotRSEMI website.

As HPR’s mission is as much about education as servicing events, I’m thrilled to be working with young people and sharing with them what’s going on with sustainability. These events will be using compostable cups, reducing packaging, and recycling as many items as possible.

At Upland Hills School, the kids were involved in all aspects of race planning, and I was invited to speak to them about Zero Waste.

I talked about how recycling and composting work, about how our “throwaway society” came about, and the push to move from the current “linear economy” (use once and throw away) to a “circular economy”(use things over and over, or make them into new things, never throwing away).

As with all events I service, I’ll be publishing full reports on the HPR website. I’ll let you know here when they’re ready.

And to all my readers: thanks again for following my adventures. I’m continually surprised how many people I meet mention a post I wrote when I had no idea they knew this blog even existed. I’m happy you’re here!